Tag Archives: New York City

Chef John Mooney Takes N.Y. Restaurant’s Success to the Rooftops of Washington, DC

Last month, I shared how the world-famous roof-to-table Bell Book & Candle eatery sports New York City’s most successful and longest-running hydroponic farm. Chef John Mooney and partner Mick O’Sullivan feed an 80-seat restaurant with their vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm, which is now in its fourth year of producing chemical-free, highly flavorful fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

The extraordinary success of the Bell Book & Candle restaurant and Tower Garden® farm in Manhattan has created international interest, and has restaurant owners and chefs asking, “How can we do this here?”

US Capitol Building

Chef John and Mick have had many opportunities to expand their success, and they recently chose our nation’s capitol as their next roof-to-table endeavor.

While many restaurants greenwash with a few pots of herbs or a small garden bed, they don’t achieve the skyrocketing success of John and Mick because—very simply—the food just isn’t getting from garden to table. What the restaurant industry is beginning to learn is that customers can no longer be fooled by good marketing and a “show” garden. They now know and understand what locally grown food is, and they want it on their plates every day.

Roof-to-table food

Roof-to-table produce you can smell and taste! (Click photo to enlarge)

Mick says it best: “I seat repeat customers every night because they know and can taste they are getting the best from us. If they weren’t, there are hundreds of other choices just down the street in Manhattan. Our repeat customers are loyal because they enjoy the experience each time and, more importantly, we have a real farm on our building that actually produces healthy herbs and vegetables!” A Future Growing® farm produces massive amounts of vertical food with extraordinary flavor and does not slow down. The farms get repeated results throughout spring, summer, fall, and even into winter, year after year!

I had a chance to sit down with Mick and Chef John in Manhattan, and here is what they had to say about their new project in Washington, DC:

Washington Monument

Chef John and Mick, why did you choose Washington, DC?

What better place to launch our second roof-to-table farm than our nation’s capitol! We were looking for partners that truly understood Chef John’s passion for responsible sourcing of local food and believed in this vision that has created genuine success for Bell Book & Candle.

Mick, tell me a little more about this new project.

We are going to save much of the details for our opening this fall, but I can tell you that this new eatery will be an even bigger success that what we have accomplished in Manhattan.

Heirloom tomatoes

BB&C partner Mick O’Sullivan tends to his favorite crop, the heirloom tomatoes! (Click photo to enlarge)

Our new roof-to-table farm will be 50% larger and, because of the higher parapet walls, we can grow our Tower Gardens® much higher than in Manhattan!

Chef John, what is the most important learning experience you take from the Bell Book & Candle farm to your new rooftop?

The vertical farm itself is an amazing machine, but each year we learn how to fine-tune the crop cycles with the seasons. For example, we discovered the heirloom varieties that grow best in our region. After four years, we have really learned how to maximize every inch of our rooftop and have watched our food purchases dramatically decline compared to other restaurants in the area.

Strawberry Tower Gardens

Chef John Mooney checking the fruit quality on his next strawberry harvest. (Click photo to enlarge)

Like Manhattan, Washington, DC is a city that leaves a huge carbon footprint on our planet: food travels thousands of miles to get to the typical restaurant table. At this new farm, we count only 100 footsteps, from roof to table. More importantly, we are growing on what was once dead rooftop space with 90% less water and NO chemicals.

Mick, tell me more about what you and Chef John learned about eliminating the use of chemicals and how that works.

We learned in Manhattan that bugs, both good and bad, do make it up to the rooftops of a busy city. During our first year in business, Future Growing® created a program that incorporates an army of good bugs into our farm. Every three weeks during the heavy pest season—mid-May through August—we release special microscopic beneficial insects specifically designed to combat the harmful bugs in our region. The best thing about this army is that they work 24 hours a day and require no pay or benefits from our company! During the warmer months, these guys are doing their job keeping the farm totally free of food-eating bugs. As a result, the produce stays clean and, more importantly, free of harmfully chemical sprays. This is good for our customers and good for our local environment.

Integrated pest management

Left: Releasing beneficial insects onto the farm in early summer. Right: Native pollinating bees naturally establish and thrive on a NO CHEMICAL farm! (Click photos to enlarge)

Chef John, I know you are not dishing out the entire scoop on your new place right now, but can you tell me a little of your concept and vision?

Our menu will revolve around meeting customers’ needs with local, organic and sustainable food, and overall responsible procurement. The menu will be seasonal and heavily influenced on production from the aeroponic rooftop Tower Garden® farm. The food will be original, and we will have the best-tasting and freshest plates in the city.

Mick, do you feel this is the future?

It is not only good business for us, but it is the future and is a necessity if we are going to live healthy lives and sustain this planet for the generations to come. We are excited to be pioneering this movement, and we are seeing an explosion of similar farms across the city and country!

It was great talking with you both and we look forward to the excitement of your grand opening!

You can learn more about Chef John and Mick by clicking here.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC


New York City’s Most Successful and Longest-Running Hydroponic Rooftop Farm Now in its Fourth Year

Tim Blank summer 2013 visit to the famous Bell, Book & Candle

Future Growing founder Tim Blank’s summer 2013 visit to the famous Bell Book and Candle rooftop Tower Garden® farm. (Click photo to enlarge)

I am pleased to announce that New York City’s most successful and longest-running roof-to-table hydroponic rooftop farm is now in its fourth year of producing chemical-free, highly flavorful fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Chef John Mooney and partner Mick O’Sullivan feed an 80-seat restaurant with their vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm, which is located six stories high on the roof of a 100-year-old tenement building that was once home to only the local pigeons.

Learn more in the press release below about these innovative pioneers in the restaurant industry, and how they are changing the way local food is sourced and grown.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

BB&C Aeroponic Gardening Release Final

Bell Book & Candle Restaurant Raises Urban Gardening to New Heights Using NYC’s First Vertical Aeroponic Tower Garden®

July 2013, New York, NY–Chef John Mooney’s reputation for introducing forward-thinking culinary concepts throughout his career in the US and abroad precedes him. It is no different at Bell Book & Candle (BB&C) restaurant, where he and partner Mick O’Sullivan created New York’s first rooftop vertical aeroponic Tower Garden®, dubbed the “Garden of Earthly Delights”. They set the bar for NYC’s urban gardening scene and took it to new heights with the special Future Growing LLC vertical Aeroponic Tower Garden® system. Now in its 4th year in existence, they have harvested tons of produce from the rooftop space ranging from heirloom tomatoes to exotic red okra, and earned the Sustainability Award from Star Chefs for 2011. The system has grown to now consist of 60 vertical towers generating bountiful rewards, other than the obvious, of providing fresh food for Chef Mooney that are used in both food and beverage menu items.

Strawberry Tower Gardens

Summer 2013: Fresh strawberries are used to garnish desserts and Chef John Mooney’s summer garden salad. (Click photo to enlarge)

Partner Mick O’Sullivan stated, “When you’re talking about real estate in Manhattan or any large city, there’s only one direction you can go and that is up. Because space is at a premium, the same philosophy applies to gardening in the city. Our self-contained, automatic-watering vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® system provides multiple benefits for us, our customers and community.” Those benefits include:

    • Producing fresh, local organic, sustainable product with wellness benefits for customers;

      Onion chives

      Tower of onion chives, summer 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

  • Cost efficiency -low production/ maintenance costs, and the end product is directly available for use;
  • Heating and cooling benefits to the building and environment by harnessing and absorbing heat;
  • Significantly more sustainable than conventional agriculture. Using dead rooftop space, 90% less land and up to 95% less water;
  • Better space management than other urban gardens by using vertical height;
  • No soil needed, roots are concealed and not exposed to pollutants and pests, and organic pest-control (good bugs eat bad bugs);
  • Efficient timed nutrient delivery, all natural with no chemicals; and
  • Plants grow in less time than those grown in soil.


    Heirloom lettuce harvest, summer 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

Partners John and Mick are about to bring the system to their new Washington, DC restaurant venture, but with one significant difference: In DC, they will be using a state of the art greenhouse with an energy efficient ventilation system that works with nature, making it truly “controlled environment agriculture”.
In addition, BB&C’s gardening endeavor has connected them with their local community in several ways. For the past three years, they have hosted the first grade class from Greenwich Village’s PS 41 to help plant the lettuce in the beginning of each growing season and to learn about gardening. Chef Mooney also holds sustainability talks at Riverdale Community School for the 4th, 5th and 6th grades. Every summer, BB&C takes on an intern from various urban agricultural programs around the city.

4 years of NO chemicals. Benefical insects are released onto the farm to  manage harmful pests.

4 years of NO chemicals. Benefical insects are released onto the farm to manage harmful pests. (Click photo to enlarge)

Their use of aeroponic gardening came about from a fortuitous meeting at a farmer’s market in Orlando, Florida in 2008 with horticulturist and research scientist Tim Blank, founder & CEO of Future Growing, who introduced Mooney & O’Sullivan to the vertical system and a brand new 3-story certified green rooftop, the first of its kind in the world. Tim Blank said, “It was clear to me right away these guys ‘got it’ and saw the extraordinary potential for their restaurant venture. Chef Mooney had already had experience with traditional gardening. When Mick and John saw the ease of use in a small space, the high production rates we were getting from the technology, and then tasted the food, they were simply blown away and asked, “How soon can we do this at our restaurants? This will be a huge hit with the customers!”

Heirloom melons

Over 100 heirloom melons were harvested in the summer of 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

In addition to being able to grow substantial amounts food vertically in a limited space, Mick and John say they love the versatility of the system. They can grow tomatoes one week, and bibb lettuce the next.

Additionally, when Hurricane Sandy came through last summer, all 60 towers were easily carried indoors. After the storm passed, they carried them back outside and were up and growing in minutes. Any standard hydroponic system would have blown away, damaging the nearby buildings and destroying the capital investment made for the restaurant.


Over 1,000 cucumbers are harvested monthly!. (Click photo to enlarge)

Efforts like this emphasize Chef John & Mick’s dedication to serving the freshest food possible. “The food program at BB&C revolves around meeting consumer needs with local, organic, sustainable, and overall responsible procurement. The menu cycles are seasonal and heavily influenced on production from the aeroponic rooftop tower garden,” says Chef John Mooney. “We find inspiration in the various regions of America and focus on the contemporary aspect and eclecticism of our country’s melting pot. Our food strives for originality and individualism.”

Heirloom okra

Heirloom okra is used for Bell Book & Candle’s seasonal menu. (Click photo to enlarge)

The aeroponically-grown fresh vegetables and herbs are incorporated into dishes that change seasonally, including: Zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and wild mushrooms, with romesco sauce; house-made Burrata with wilted cherry tomatoes and rooftop basil; rooftop mixed greens; crisp pork belly and rooftop arugula with cherries, shaved fennel, and sweet onion; and grilled and roasted seasonal vegetables.

Cocktails include: BB&C Rooftop Mint Mojito with rum, rooftop mint, limes, agave, and soda; Dill With It with huckleberry vodka, strawberry, cucumber, lemon, dill, vanilla, and cava; and City Sage, buffalo trace bourbon, aperol, lime, honey, sage.


About Bell Book & Candle:

Heirloom tomatoes

BB&C partner Mick O’Sullivan tends to his favorite crop, the heirloom tomatoes! (Click photo to enlarge)

Bell Book & Candle is a West Village restaurant and bar, opened in 2010 by partners Chef John Mooney and Mick O’Sullivan in New York City. Their mission at BB&C revolves around meeting consumer needs with local, organic, sustainable and overall responsible procurement of the food on their menu. They find inspiration in the various regions of America, and focus on the contemporary aspect and eclecticism of our country’s melting pot. Chef John has worked at notable restaurants globally including Red Sage, RAKU, The Mansion at Turtle Creek, Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse, Heartbeat, and The Saddle Room in Ireland. In 2004, John was named one of the “Best Hotel Chefs” in the USA by the James Beard Foundation for his work at Heartbeat and in 2011, BB&C earned the Sustainability Award from Star Chefs for the aeroponic garden. www.bbandcnyc.com.

About Future Growing:

For the past 8 years, Future Growing® LLC has been the world leader in vertical aeroponic food farms utilizing patented Tower Garden® technology. With over 100 successful projects across North America, Future Growing® leads the way in the local food growing movement, which has become a permanent mainstream trend in the United States. The Future Growing® team, which is comprised of professional growers, horticulturists, and aeroponic experts, is led by founder and CEO Tim Blank, a hydroponics expert, global speaker, and 12-year veteran with the Walt Disney World Company. The primary business of Future Growing is not just selling a product, but more importantly creating successful urban farms, one farmer at a time. www.futuregrowing.com.